The Importance of Florida Mosquito Control Association's Tallahassee Days
Each year the FMCA Legislative Committee, working through the FMCA Lobbying Firm (Lewis, Longman & Walker P.A.), organizes a day in Tallahassee to meet with Florida legislators. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the importance of mosquito control in protecting the health and well-being of Florida’s citizens and visitors and to share with legislators the important issues and concerns of the FMCA. This year the meetings were ably organized and led by Doug Carlson, Director of Indian River Mosquito Control District, and Dennis Moore, Director of Pasco County Mosquito Control District who are the co-chairs of the FMCA Legislative Committee.
Some members of FMCA might question the importance and impact of FMCA’s Tallahassee Days. I assure readers that this year it was extremely important. There have been occasions in the past when FMCA was not successful in getting legislative backing for issues that were important to Florida mosquito control. A recent exception was FMCA’s role in 2006 supporting the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute that resulted in state funding for this important initiative.
It is not a secret that Florida’s budget is facing deep problems in 2008. This was an especially tough year in Tallahassee with Florida facing nearly a $7 billion dollar shortfall in its budget. If there ever was a time for conveying the importance of Florida Mosquito Control to legislators, it was this year when all items in the state budget were being ardently screened to see where budget cuts would be made. This was serious business. Mosquito control was at risk.
The FMCA group of 21 representatives from 13 organizations, including mosquito control districts, Commissioners, PHEREC, FMEL, AMVAC, and Clarke Mosquito Control arrived in Tallahassee and were briefed on the mosquito control budget by Mr. Chris Lyon of Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A. The outlook was not bright. At the outset, the state budget supporting mosquito control in the districts had been reduced in the House budget by 4% ($86,000) and there was no language to continue the mosquito research program (a cut of $250,000). The Senate version contained the full mosquito research budget, but included a reduction of $237,000 in the dollars for mosquito control transferred from FDEP to FDACS.
The proposed cuts were severe and it was uncertain if even deeper cuts were being considered. The FMCA Legislative group made plans to address the budget cuts in their meetings with legislators. In these meetings legislators were given a handout based on a BuzzWords article (Tabachnick, W.J. 2008. Florida mosquito control research program. BuzzWords 8(2):7-8) that touted the impact and importance of the mosquito research program in keeping Florida mosquito control efficient, effective, and environmentally proper.
The FMCA group divided into four teams that met with 21 Florida Legislators from the House and the Senate. The adverse impact of the proposed cuts was made clear to Florida’s lawmakers. Team members explained the significance of the funds provided by the state in allowing Florida mosquito control to continue to protect Florida’s health and well-being. The risk to Florida from West Nile and Chikungunya viruses was stressed focusing on the potential of the proposed cuts to jeopardize our readiness and ability to respond to these and other vector-borne disease threats. The significance of the mosquito research funds in keeping Florida safe was explained.
I personally was thrilled at the solidarity of the legislative group and the reception we received from those we met. The FMCA group galvanized support and was completely successful! The Florida mosquito control budget was fully funded at $2.16 million with an additional $250,000 for mosquito control research with no reduction in the amount transferred from FDEP to FDACS for mosquito control.
There is substantial support in the Florida legislature for the work that is done by Florida mosquito control. Everyone in FMCA who has been involved with the legislative committee and Tallahassee Days should be congratulated for their accomplishment in protecting mosquito control and Florida.
We can build on this success! I encourage more FMCA members to participate in Tallahassee Days in 2009. With more participants FMCA can have more groups for meetings, meet with more legislators, and next year we can aggressively move to get the long awaited increase we so urgently need in the mosquito control and mosquito research budgets.
Walter J. Tabachnick - Professor of Entomology
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida-IFAS, Vero Beach, FL
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